Britain’s problem with lorry drivers could soon be over, although’significant’ steps were taken to resolve serious recruitment problems. However, smaller fleets continue to suffer from the crisis transport leaders claim.

Logistics UK, which is a representative of the sector based in Tunbridge Wells said that there is ‘cautious optimism” following months of shortages for HGV drivers.

Ministers declared last month that the limits placed on how many deliveries EU drivers may make to Britain every week were being lifted. This was after only 20 foreigners had accepted an offer for a visa extension.

To help increase the number of HGV drivers, there were a variety of changes to the requirements for driving tests and increased wages. Since then, there have been threefold more licence applications and HGV driving tests.

The pandemic and the exodus from Europe of European drivers during Brexit led to the closing of testing centers for drivers of lorries in the sector last year.

Logistics UK, a sector representative based in Tunbridge Wells, said there was 'cautious optimism' following months of HGV driver shortages (file image)

Logistics UK is a representative of the sector based in Tunbridge Wells. They stated that there was “cautious optimism” following months of shortages for HGV drivers (file image).

Last month ministers announced limits on the number of deliveries EU drivers can make in Britain each week would end after the offer of a visa extension led to just 20 being issued to foreigners. Pictured, lorries at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk

Ministers last month announced that limits would be placed on how many deliveries EU drivers could make to Britain every week. This was after only 20 visa extensions were offered to foreigners. Pictured: Lorries in the Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk

The crisis that followed saw shelves empty in supermarkets, and petrol stations with no fuel left earlier this year.

However, the Logistics UK Skills Report 2021 suggested that this crisis might be ending. 

Elizabeth de Jong (policy director) at the organisation said there was more to do to address the issue.

Kent Online spoke to her, saying that although average driver wages rose by 10% over the period October to October 2021, in order to retain current staff and recruit drivers, fleets with smaller capacity are not returning to their original full size after the Covid-19 epidemic shutdown. They also stated that their inability offer higher wages to drivers is hindering the ability to find new staff.

A Hoyer tanker makes a delivery at a Shell petrol station in Basingstoke, Hampshire

Hoyer’s tanker delivers at the Shell station in Basingstoke (Hampshire).

Last month Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted a short-term fix was needed to a long-term problem where more British lorry drivers would be needed. 

He explained that temporary changes in cabotage rules are being made to ensure foreign hauliers can make efficient use of their time and increase the flow of goods through the supply chain in times when there is high demand.

He also insists that Christmas will ‘go ahead.  

He stated that last Christmas, we worried about not being able see our loved ones. We won’t have any issues this year. And we will make sure the supply chain does what it needs to, as this is exactly what this measure, with these alterations to this cabotage, is intended to do. 

“Christmas will be celebrated, and we’ll have the opportunity to visit our families and friends. There will be food and gifts.

There are thousands of shipping containers at Port of Felixstowe, Suffolk. Shipping giant Maersk said that it was diverting ships away from UK ports in order to load elsewhere in Europe due to a buildup of cargo caused by the HGV crisis.

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I do know that there is a tight supply chain around the globe. This is because of the long-term coronavirus epidemic, which we all are coming to terms with. The UK’s expanding economy (the fastest growing G7) means there are special stresses and strains.

“But we are taking a variety of measures. One is the cabotage rules, which governs how foreign truck drivers can pick up or drop off cargo. They will be able to pickup and deliver goods anywhere in the country up until Christmas.

Andrew Acre, CEO of Independent British Retailers Association said that it seemed like this could help to alleviate some of these problems. A major problem in the supply chain is that HGVs don’t have the capacity to move stock about the country. This makes it difficult to know if there are empty containers at ports. 

“And, if we’re able to use this temporary scheme to improve our HGV capacity, we’ll be able to move the goods much more efficiently than at present around the UK. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for that to happen.